Expiration dates are a tricky thing. When it comes to food, many people are under the assumption that daring to snack on food that has “expired” could prove fatal, or at least make you sick. In reality, most foods don’t actually go bad. They may not taste so great after too many days have passed; some may even go stale or sour. But unless something is growing on your food, it’s likely still perfectly safe to eat.
Expiration dates are actually not required by any federal law. Many states require such dates to be included on dairy or meat packaging, but the majority of expiration dates are put on willingly by food manufacturers to protect the reputation of their products. They want people to taste their foods when it’s the freshest. So what about vape juice? Is our e-Liquid, like most foods, also safe to consume past its expiration date?
Sell By versus Use By
First, let’s determine exactly which date is the “expiration” date. Many products have two labels: a use by date (or expiration date) and a sell by date. Consumers are often misled by sell by dates, thinking they are a marker of food quality, when they’re really not.
A sell by date just helps store employees keep track of which stock came in first so they can obey the rules of FIFO (that’s food service talk for “first in, first out”). The use by date is the date for customers to keep an eye on. It is the guarantee of product freshness. Past this expiration date, the manufacturer won’t vouch for their product.
E-Juice expiration dates
You may be worried that your vape juice, being less foodstuff and more chemical concoction, may adhere to a stricter sense of urgency when it comes to expiration dates. The first thing to note is that the use by date on most bottles is measured in years, not weeks or days. So the likelihood that you’re going to frequently run into expired bottles of e-Juice is quite low for most consistent vapers. But just in case you do, you probably don’t have much to worry about.
Thus far there has been no evidence to suggest vaping expired e-Juice is any more or less dangerous than the stuff that’s hot off the shelf. While the chemical compounds in vape juice do begin to break down over time, this appears to affect only the flavor and strength of the nicotine.
An old bottle of e-Juice is much like an old bottle of Ibuprofen. You’re not going to keel over dead from consuming it, but you might not get the full benefits. If you maintain a touch and go level of nicotine consumption from your vaping, then this may not even be noticeable to you.
However, if you’re in need of a nicotine fix, be aware that the older your e-Juice is, the less potent your nicotine hit is going to be. The flavors will fade as well. If that bottle of Heaven’s Lube has been sitting in your backpack since before The Office went off the air, then prepare yourself for a stale taste.
The vaping industry is still largely unregulated. And since the FDA isn’t even concerned with requiring expiration dates on foodstuffs, then the agency definitely isn’t requiring them on e-Juice. So any expiration dates you see on your bottles are estimations placed on the labels willingly by the manufacturer. Again, this is mostly the companies wanting to avoid any negative attention. After all, if you vape their product a year after it expired and it tasted terrible, then you can’t really blame them for it, can you?
Most of the key ingredients in your e-Juice have a shelf life of about two years, which is where most companies get their expiration dates from. You might find a few that claim to last longer, but two years is a good starting point. This is, of course, assuming that the e-Liquid is of decent quality to start with and stored under optimal conditions. Cheap stuff left in your garage all summer is going to go stale much faster.
The final verdict
The answer to this broad question is that no, e-Juice doesn’t really expire in any meaningful way. Just like with canned or boxed foods, it’s good for a long time. So treat your e-Juice like you treat your milk. If it looks or smells wrong to you, don’t use it. Usually e-Liquids get darker as they start to go stale. They’ll start to lose their normal scent, as well.
Again, if you go through your e-Juice pretty regularly, you really have nothing to concern yourself with. But if you rediscover your favorite flavor hidden behind your couch one evening, maybe give it a quick once over before you pop it in your vape mod, if only to spare yourself the potential assault on your taste buds.
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